Throughout Asia during these past few months, we had the opportunity to gleefully observe monkeys outside of customary zoo environments. Some monkeys gracefully walked on power lines as if they were tightrope artists; others stole human goodies from garbage cans at outdoor establishments. The luckiest ones lived in areas that blended a natural with an urban environment (such as Ubud, Bali’s Monkey Forest or Elephanta Island, an hour’s boat ride from Mumbai).
Some of the primates we saw led essentially solitary lives in confinement. There was a pet monkey tethered to a front yard hook in Bali that was extremely disturbed by his isolation who found solace by looking at himself in a broken rear view mirror, despite being teased by neighborhood children. There were monkeys on leashes in India, paraded about by their owners who pleaded with benevolent travelers to give them baksheesh (money). Also, there was a monkey in rural Laos tethered to a rusted-out piece of of a bomb shell in front of a home pictured below.
Curious why this pet was chained to this UXO? It might surprise you – as it did me during my first visit to Laos in 2009 – that this nation is the world’s most bombed country per capita. From 1964-1973, it is estimated that U.S. forces dropped more than two million tons of bombs there – eclipsing those dropped in Japan and Germany during World War II. An estimated thirty percent of those bombs failed to detonate.
Ironically, impoverished people in rural Laos use left-over UXO as every-day objects: planters for flowers and vegetables, makeshift fences and even posts for their stilted homes. In this case, the metal was fashioned into a makeshift pet pole.
Where in the World?
Feel compelled to help clear Laos of unexploded ordnance? An NGO, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is doing admirable work in Laos and beyond. Even the smallest donation can go a long way, as we discovered when we surprised our parents by donating money for clearing land in their names.